This is a guest post written by Claudine Motto, who is a business coach, productivity consultant, and owner of Business in Blossom. She works with women entrepreneurs who want better control of their time, their work, and themselves so they can create more success, flow and joy in their business and in their lives. When she’s not working, much of her joy comes from good coffee, good food, good wine, her husband and two cats. Connect with her at BusinessInBlossom.com.
It seems everyone’s using Evernote these days, but you may not be aware of some of its most handy features. Here are 10 tips for how you can incorporate Evernote into your workflow, keep it organized, and use it to the fullest so you can save time and have the information you need to be productive wherever you are.
1. Organize and tag your notes on the go
When you send your notes to Evernote via e-mail you can tag them and designate the notebook they end up in. If you don’t know your Evernote e-mail address, go to Settings > Account Summary (Web version), or to Tools > Account Info (desktop version). Then immediately put the address into your address book so you don’t have to remember the address and so it’s handy when you need it.
To designate the notebook: in the e-mail subject line, type “@” followed by the name of an existing notebook.
To designate a tag: type “#” followed by the name of an existing tag (by the way, it must be in that order – notebook first, tag second, and both the notebook and tag need to already exist, otherwise the note ends up in your default notebook).
For example, say you share a notebook “Books” with your clients (in the Web version, go to Share > Share Notebooks. In the desktop version, right click on the notebook you want to share, select Properties, then click on “Sharing and collaboration options”) where you keep a list of books that you recommend they read. To add your latest recommendation with the title of the note being the month and date, and the tags “business” and “goals,” your e-mail subject line would look like this: May 2011 @Books #business #goals. The body of your e-mail would be the book titles (so clean up anything you don’t want showing up in Evernote, like e-mail signatures).
By the way, you’ll notice that the Share menu on the web now gives you the option to share to Facebook, too.
2. Find what you need even in your handwritten notes
Evernote’s image recognition makes handwritten notes searchable, which is cool (I’ve found it to be pretty accurate, too) and it’s a time-saver if you don’t have a tablet and you like to take notes on paper but then want to save them electronically so you can more easily search, edit, and share.
You can scan your notes into your system or you can take a picture of your notes and e-mail them into your Evernote account — this works best on phones with good cameras. In either case, note that if you have a free account you have to wait in line for Evernote to perform OCR on your images — Premium accounts go first. And as of this writing, only Premium accounts get to search inside PDFs.
For instructions for how to set up your scanner to scan directly into Evernote (detailed for the ScanSnap since it’s what I use and recommend to clients) but you can find general instructions for other scanners, too) go to Evernote scanners.
One downside (and a workaround with the Import Folders feature): most scanners ask you to save the image to a folder even when you set them up to scan to an application like Evernote. To save time from having to delete the file afterwards (or have a bunch of duplicate files that you don’t need), create a specific folder on your hard drive just for scans that you want to send into Evernote, and specify that folder in your scanner’s image-saving folder. Then in Evernote, set that folder up as an Import folder (Tools > Import Folders…) and choose the delete option for the source file. This means that every file in that folder will get deleted as soon as it is exported/sent to Evernote — so make sure this is how you want it to work.
3. Import Folders can help save the day, too
Create a “Synced with Evernote” folder on your hard drive for any files you’d like to have synced up with Evernote automatically (i.e., if you do public speaking, your presentation handouts, notes). Then in Evernote, set that folder up as an Import folder (Tools > Import Folders…), and choose your preferences (whether to sync up subfolders, which Evernote notebook to send it to, and whether you want to keep or delete the file in your hard drive once it gets exported). You’ll always have a backup of those files handy.
Note: free accounts can export Images (jpeg/png/gif), Audio (mp3/wav), PDF, and digital ink files. For other file types you’ll have to upgrade to the Premium version.
4. “Stack” your notebooks for better organization
Create headings for the groups of things that you do (or the hats that you wear in your business); this keeps things organized and makes it easier to find things. To create a stack, just drag a notebook into another one – then right click on the stack “parent” to name it whatever makes sense (in this case, Writing). You could create a similar structure for Marketing, Research, Shopping, Travel. Think about what makes sense for your business and life.
5. Be purposeful with your titles
This way they sort nicely and you find things quickly. For example, if you keep your blog post drafts in Evernote, start your titles with the word Blog. Go one step further and number your posts so that you always know how many posts you have in the works; if you know when you plan on publishing them, you can add the date, too.
6. Merge ideas together
If you use Evernote to collect ideas for blog posts or newsletter articles, you’ll find you sometimes end up with your ideas for the same subject scattered across many different notes.
That’s where the Merge Notes feature comes in handy: do a search for the keywords or tags that will bring up your notes for a particular idea or subject — choose the notes you want to merge, right click and select Merge Notes (desktop version).
7. Use Saved Searches to save time
This feature is a time-saver for searches you perform frequently, especially if you create a sophisticated search that may be hard to remember without referring to the help files. Here’s a list of the more advanced search operators.
You can create searches for anything you want. But a word of caution: if you go overboard and end up with so many saved searches that it’s time consuming to find the one you want, you’ll either waste time or end up not using them. Be selective.
If you use tags, the “Notes without tags” search makes it quick to see any notes you may have missed tagging. And if you use Evernote for your To Do lists, bringing up all the notes that have To Do’s in them, or all your completed or just your “undones” is a time-saver, a good way to get an overview of your tasks, and especially useful if, a la the Get Things Done system, you want to make sure you have next actions associated with all your active projects.
(Evernote, if you’re listening: it would be great for planning purposes and getting an overview of tasks to have the option to pull all To Do’s in a single note (without altering the original note/s), with the note title in parenthesis and a link to the original note next to each To Do item.)
And by the way, you can search a stack; for example, stack:writing tag:communication would bring up all notes in your Writing stack tagged “communication.”
8. Protect your sensitive information
Both the Windows and Mac Evernote desktop client let you encrypt text. This can be very useful for storing things like account numbers, passwords, and other sensitive information. Highlight the portion of text you’d like to encrypt, right-click on it and choose “Encrypt Selected Text.” Of course the key here is to use a very strong passphrase that can’t be easily cracked (but that you’ll remember, since Evernote cannot help you recover it).
9. Search your Evernote notes when you search Google
How many times have you gone out looking for information only to realize later you had plenty already stored in your hard drive? It’s a sign of the times: collect, collect, collect, then forget you have it. Well, if you use Google Chrome as your browser, you can have it search your Evernote notebooks, too.
First, download the Google Chrome extension here. Once installed, go to your Evernote icon in the browser toolbar, right click, select Options, and check use Simultaneous Search.
10. Make a point to use Evernote — don’t let it just sit there!
We already mentioned Evernote as a place to drop things into that you think your clients might enjoy, like books, or quotes, and as a place to keep your blog and newsletter ideas and drafts so that wherever you are you can work on them.
But the possibilities are endless:
• Business cards of people, resources and vendors you’ll want to have handy, but that you don’t want or aren’t sure they belong in your main phone database. Make the title descriptive (or put enough information and keywords inside the note) so when you need to find the information a year later it’s easy to find even if you can’t remember many of the details.
• A marketing brochure on the go: consultants who host parties, like Mary Kay or Pure Romance, could create a notebook with pictures of a few of their most lively, fun, successful events. Interior decorators and professional organizers could store pictures of “before and afters.”
• Take snapshots of your gym’s latest class schedule; takeout menus; labels of wines you like (and don’t like, so you don’t make that mistake again)
• IT information: anything that may help save time and make it really easy to get your business back up and running (like your router settings)
• Use Evernote’s mobile app to record audio notes of ideas you may get while driving, or to record “agenda” items you want to remember to discuss with someone — whether your coach, a vendor, your spouse, or your assistant.
• Bits of information you’ll need in a rush: the best place to park at the mall for your favorite stores at your local mall (i.e., Victoria’s Secret is between Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s); how to pick the best vegetables and fruits; the vitamins and medications you take; the lightbulb type for your outside lights; your nieces’ and nephews’ clothes and shoe sizes.
The bottom line: when your information is centralized and organized, you spend less time looking for it; you feel more in control; and you can get back to doing work, being productive, or just enjoying life.
How Do You Use Evernote?
What tricks do you use to keep it useful and organized? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.